A long day at work. Then running with my dog—in the dark, to avoid the deer hunters. I stop at the corner store to fill my tank, down to ¼.
Snowing. A slushy mix. Wind. I’m cold, but I’ll only be outside of the car’s warmth for a few minutes. I pick up the pump handle and raise the lever.
I wait the few annoying moments for the store staff to notice. Then it starts. Sort of. The lousy 7 gallons or so I’ll need to top the tank are going to take forever at this rate. I watch the meter. 1.208. 1.229. 1.374. Sigh.
I’m pissed. I’m cold, tired, and want to go home, eat dinner, get some rest. I consider just stopping the pump, paying and leaving, but my brain argues that I’d just have to stop somewhere else tomorrow. I sigh again and make an effort to just relax. I pump and wait. Hand squeezing the nozzle handle, I look around.
I notice a man near the kerosene pump with a small boy, four years old, perhaps? They’re dressed similarly: dirty jeans, flannel shirts, jackets—and clean, new, bright orange knit hats. I pump. They pump—or rather Dad pumps, while Junior sits on the steps, patiently, clearly tired. They go inside to pay.
I watch the meter. 4.379. 4.820. 5.358. Sigh. Shiver.
Dad and Child walk out, hand in hand. Dad wraps an arm around Son, lifting him to his shoulder in his left arm, then reaching down for the full five gallon container of kerosene with his right hand. He staggers a bit (I can tell you—those full containers are heavy!), steadies himself, and starts his walk, 60 feet or so, to the pickup truck.
Then he spits.
Straight ahead. Confidently. Into the light breeze, the wad arcing in the light it catches in a smooth, neat parabola. He doesn’t bow his head even the slightest bit.
I glance back a bit later. He’s leaning on the truck bed, seeming tired, but now he’s in a darker spot, and my pump is nearing the 7 gallon mark.
[Note to production crew—cue up soundtrack to Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Focus on Gaston’s song (“I’m especially good at expectorating” and “I use antlers in all of my decorating”) and his dialogue with Belle early in the film (“We’ll have twelve strapping boys—like me!”)]